sobering times

There’s no doubt about it, these days are stressful. People the world over are dealing with new stresses, big stresses, and unprecedented stresses. But they are also still dealing with old stresses, minor stresses, and daily ongoing stresses. The emergence of a big global crisis didn’t make the other problems go away. Indeed, in many ways it has magnified them.

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I have been very, very careful the last couple of weeks to take care of my health. Whether or not I have the dreaded covid-19 or just some other unusual virus, this is not a good time to be sick*. So I have been working my hardest to do everything I can think of to keep myself from getting sicker. I’ve made an effort to eat fresh produce and other healthy foods, and limit my sugar intake. I’ve made sure to do a moderate amount of physical activity every day, without pushing myself too hard. I’ve kept myself well-hydrated, mixing up and chugging an electrolyte drink at least a couple of times a day. I have limited my caffeine intake. I have made sure to be well-rested. And I have not allowed myself to have any alcohol.

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I’m not a regular drinker. I am an occasional social drinker. (Some years or months have more such occasions than others.) I am such a lightweight, I never have more than one drink. But every once in a while, such as after a particularly stressful week, I have allowed myself to unwind at home with a beer or a glass of wine.

In these stressful past couple of weeks, watching the news unfold in increasingly alarming ways, I have thought it would be nice to just sit back with a bit of wine to decompress. But I have resisted. And in that resistance, I have felt for those who are also choosing not to drink for their own personal reasons.

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I know that there are many people out there who are in recovery, and for whom this must be an exceedingly difficult time. If this applies to you, I see you. I wish you continued courage and strength. I raise my water glass to you!

For everyone out there, please take special care of your physical health, but also your mental health. Be kind to yourself.

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*By the way, my low-grade fever, fatigue and chills are almost completely gone now, and I’m coughing only occasionally. I felt more like myself today.**
**Also, even though this is apparently a serious post, I still apparently can’t resist the urge to use a pun. This is part of feeling like myself. My self likes puns.

chilling at home

My life has been a blur the last few days. Busy and surreal. Plus my head has been a little foggy.

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I came down with a low-grade fever Thursday night, and a mild cough, and the almost-but-not-quite-fever has continued to linger. I can’t know whether my symptoms are a mild version of the dreaded coronavirus or something else, because I don’t meet the criteria for testing in this area. (My symptoms aren’t severe, I didn’t recently travel internationally, and I don’t know of a direct contact with someone with the virus. Never mind the fact that in the week preceding the start of my symptoms, I’d ridden public transportation in Boston, where lots of cases have been emerging following the Biogen conference, and that I’d attended two large events with over a hundred people each.)

In any case, we have been taking the social distancing seriously. We kept both kids home on Friday, and were relieved when the district closed schools for the upcoming two weeks. (And further relieved when the governor closed all Massachusetts public schools for 3 weeks.)

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Because I primarily work from home, my own daytime schedule hasn’t dramatically changed with the new guidelines. Except that there are more people around. But that’s only part of why I’ve had trouble focusing on work. (I know I’m not alone.) I can’t look away from what’s going on in other parts of the world, and I can’t stop thinking about what we are likely to be faced with in this country in the coming weeks and months. It feels like I am watching a slow motion train wreck that’s about to happen, knowing that I can’t stop it.

But I know that at least my family and I are doing our small part to keep others safe. We are staying away from people. I have only left the house to walk the dog, or to go into the woods behind our house with the kids, and we have steered clear of other people. I walked the dog early yesterday, because it’s easier to avoid the neighbors and their dogs. And we got to enjoy this last bit of winter snow before it melted.

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John has ventured out a little further. First, to deliver some medications to his mother’s assisted living before they locked down the building to outside visitors, and for some shopping. (One trip was to try to get me Tylenol, since it turns out we don’t have any, aside from a small expired bottle of chewable children’s Tylenol. But sadly, CVS didn’t have any either.) Other than the Tylenol, we’ve been in pretty good shape for supplies.

I had considered driving the kids somewhere to hike on a nearby trail, but I realized I shouldn’t drive until my fever is cleared. Even though it mostly hovers under 100 degrees, I’ve noticed that my judgement and reactions are a bit impaired when the temperature goes up. My temperature is trending back downward, and yesterday and today I’ve even been back down to normal from time-to-time. (And then back up again, but not usually as high.) The cough is improving, so that’s good. Mostly I just feel some chills tonight.

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So far, we are mostly enjoying being at home together. The kids have had some school assignments, and done some independent projects. John and I have still had our various work commitments and remote meetings. But we’ve been enjoying having more time in the evenings due to the suddenly changed schedules. John’s not going to his mom’s every night, and we’re not driving the kids to various activities.

I’m hoping to be able to do some art or craft projects in the coming three weeks. And we have tons of puzzles and games I’d love to do, not to mention lots of books I want to read. But somehow, I’m mostly neither doing a lot of the fun things, nor getting the work done that I’ve committed to doing. I’m trying to go easy on myself, though, because even though I feel pretty good most of the time, I am definitely under the weather much of the time, too.

And there’s the whole experience of getting through this uncharted territory. I’ve spend way too much time reading on FB, and reading news articles. But I’ve also been focusing on spending quality time with the kids every day, making sure we are all eating some healthy food, and checking in with friends and family. (I still have many more friends and family members to check in on.)

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I didn’t think I was going to write all that, but there it is. Those were a *lot* of words. Now I should be either going to bed or looking at some data for a meeting I have in the morning. (Probably going to go to bed.)

(These are some photos I took yesterday morning, when we had a quick reminder that it’s still technically winter.)

 

bursts of cheer in a bleak landscape

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Things are looking pretty bleak these days. Just about all anyone can think about (including me) is the global coronavirus pandemic and the changes to our lives. I don’t really have a lot to say about that just now (or at least not that I have the energy for tonight). But I have realized that I want to make sure to include activities in my daily life that bring me joy.

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On that note, I decided to start blogging regularly again. Back when I was dealing with the social isolation of being a new parent in 2006, I started to blog. It helped me to connect with people outside my immediate circle. In the following several years, I got to know a lot of new people, many of whom I still consider dear friends.

yellow-crocus-in-sunPlus I had a lot of *fun* blogging. Some people who only know me in meatspace may not realize what a goofball I really am. This is how I like to react to stress: bad puns and general silliness. Also by sharing photos.

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Am I stressed now? You betcha. Who isn’t? At least my household is in pretty good shape for the next few weeks of social distancing. But unfortunately I’ve been a little sick for the last few days. (Maybe I’ll write about that tomorrow. Or maybe not.)

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In any case, I’ve been enjoying these bright little crocuses that we planted last fall. They are springing up in my yard. Cheerful little heralds of brighter days to come. (Some day.)

Pie Another Day

Today is Pi Day, a day on which I like to celebrate pie. While my traditional Pi Day Pi Pie is not yet in the oven, I have been baking up these tasty pie treats for ages.* Plus, with the new Bond movie’s release delayed, along with so many things these uncertain days, we could use some certainty. And we can certainly use some pie.

I share with you the selected pie-filled adventures of British Pastry Service’s elite secret agent, DoubleCrust7.

Dr. NoBake (1962)

In the first film of the saga, Agent DoubleCrust7 battles mysterious Dr. NoBake, a megalomaniacal chef bent on destroying the U.S. baking industry. DoubleCrust travels to Jamaica, where he finds beautiful Honey Pie, and confronts Dr. NoBake in his massive ovenless kitchen.

From Russia with Crust (1963)

Agent DoubleCrust7 is back on the menu, this time battling a secret Russian organization known as KURNIK. Out to snatch a secret meringue whipping device, KURNIK uses the ravishing Tartiana to lure DoubleCrust into helping them. Will DoubleCrust escape without getting his crust burnt and his filling whipped?

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The Spy Who Loved Pie (1977)

Globetrotting agent DoubleCrust7 eats pie in jaw-dropping locales, from turnover on the cliffs of Dover, to plunging into deep-dish in the deep sea. Pairing with dessert-loving Russian agent Anya Pavlova, he must defeat megalomaniac pie magnate Karl Strudelberg, who threatens to destroy New York City’s bakeries with inferior ingredients.

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For Your Pies Only (1981)

DoubleCrust7 is dispatched to recover Britain’s strategic pie-baking plans before they fall into the hands of the Russians. When the secret recipe for the Queen’s favorite steak and kidney pie goes missing, DoubleCrust joins forces with the vengeful Greek beauty Spanakopita to find the key ingredients.

A View to a Quiche (1985)

After recovering a microchip from the half-eaten dessert of a deceased colleague in Russia, DoubleCrust7 discovers that the technology has the potential for sinister culinary applications. DoubleCrust faces off against the unsavory bakers, who are scheming to cause massive destruction of crusts to eliminate the quiche-baking competition.

Pie Another Day (2002)

Having survived a bleak and pieless prison, DoubleCrust7 is released to seek justice and pie. DoubleCrust knows he’s been double-crossed, and suspects agent Crumbtop has turned turnover. Pairing with NSA agent Cherry BerryPie, he uncovers Crumbtop’s plot with British millionaire Spotted Dick involving a highly deadly pie server.

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No Time to Pie (2020)

In this highly anticipated new feature, DoubleCrust7 returns to rescue a kidnapped pastry chef. Following the trail of crumbs, he tracks down a mysterious pie-eating villain who is developing his own killer recipe for a devastatingly addictive blueberry pie.

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Where will DoubleCrust7 show up next? We can’t be sure, but we know that the devious villains will always get their just desserts.

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*Indeed, it was back in November that I started this. Back when I was preparing to pie for Thanksgiving. We ended up getting a frozen pie crust that we decided not to use. We decided to pie another day. Naturally that led me to this.

work in progress

The last few weeks have been packed with activity. (Personal. Professional. Political.) I’ve been pulled in lots of directions with a variety of projects, and a few things haven’t quite gotten finished.

When my mother visited for Thanksgiving, one of our planned activities was to make gingerbread houses. We are not ones to buy a kit with a pre-baked house. We make the dough from scratch, and each design our house. (Or structure, which is not necessarily a house. Last year I made my town’s Town Hall building. This year my mother made a Japanese gate.) In any case, the way we do things, it’s a multi-day process.

gingerbread1-ingredientsHere we put together the ingredients for the dough. My photo library tells me this was November 30th. I then mixed each batch up to let it chill overnight. (Possibly a few overnights.)

gingerbread2-modelWe all designed prototypes for our structures using cardboard. I used a stack of leftover political mailers.

gingerbread3-cutThe cardboard/cardstock cutouts then served as the stencil for cutting out the baked dough.

gingerbread4-hardeningThe cut pieces then needed to dry out some more before assembly. They smelled amazing, but the particular gluten-free blend of flours I used was a bit fragile and persnickety.

gingerbread5-part-builtMy house took a while to assemble, as there were some breakages that needed repairing.

gingerbread6-undecoratedAlso, the thickness of the baked pieces meant that my walls and roof didn’t quite fit together as intended. I improvise by making a tower to cover for a gap between the walls. I was quite pleased with the new shape. All that was left was to decorate and embellish (and cover my messy seams), and my gingerbread house would be ready to display.

The trouble is, this project isn’t exactly the only one that I’ve been working on. The big “distraction” was a conference deadline, and three of the research groups I am involved with were planning to submit. The deadline for a 4-page paper was December 21st. (The deadline was then somewhat extended such that an abstract, title and author info could be submitted on the 21st, but the full paper could be edited until January 3rd before being sent out to reviewers.)

The loosening of the deadline left a bit more breathing room for things like holiday shopping and political protests. But in spite of getting our tree up and decorated right  after Thanksgiving, I haven’t managed to put up many other decorations. We are the one house on our little street without festive lights and/or other outdoor decorations. I find it amusing that my little gingerbread house is leading a parallel existence.

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Tonight I hope to do some decorating. Of the gingerbread house, not the real house. (The bulk of our Christmas decorations are staying in bins this year.) Phoebe still had plans for landscaping her gingerbread house that she didn’t have time for, so I am using that as an excuse to make up a batch of the appropriate icing so we can get to work. (But I’m also  prepping for Christmas dinner, need to excavate our dining room table, and need to wrap a big pile of gifts…So we’ll see.)

Darling buds of December

The buds of May are many moons away, but I have been appreciating the promise held in the buds I see on the trees and shrubs now. I am especially drawn to their little budding forms when they are encased in ice and/or dusted in snow. buds7

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Most of these were taken on various morning walks with the dog this month. (The combination of morning light and post-ice-storm sparkle can be totally mesmerizing. I’ve been caught in its particular snares before.)

3 disconnected photos

Today was a largely mellow day involving continued cleaning up from yesterday’s dinner. I spent some time putting together some ingredients for rather elaborate (and decidedly silly) blog post that is still only half-baked. Since I don’t want to stay up too much later, I foraged through my photo collections for a few morsels I’d been saving. I came across this set. Well, that’s not exactly true. I came across a similar set of photos: 1) the three little tomatoes in a blue bowl, 2) the 6 red potatoes in a colander and 3) 2 photos of cranberries in a little white bowl. One had 3 cranberries, which went nicely with the 3 tomatoes. But since I took the potato picture last December, I couldn’t go back and only put in 3 potatoes. (And I didn’t think to take any new photos of potatoes as I was prepping them yesterday.) The other photo of cranberries in the bowl had 7 cranberries. And it bothered me that it gave me a set of 3, 6 and 7. So then I realized that I still had half a bag of fresh cranberries in the fridge, and a little while bowl sitting empty on the table. So, yes, I staged the 3rd photo to have the bowl contain 9 cranberries so I could have the photos contain 3, 6 and 9 oval-shaped red produce objects. A much more satisfying number sequence.